Memphis and Charleston Railroad

Memphis and Charleston Railroad

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The Memphis and Charleston Railroad, completed in 1857, was the first railroad in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to link the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 with the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. Chartered in 1846 the railroad ran from Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

 to Stevenson, Alabama
Stevenson, Alabama
Stevenson is a city in Jackson County, Alabama, United States, and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 1,770.-Geography:Stevenson is located at ....

 through the towns of Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth is a city in Alcorn County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 14,054 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Alcorn County. Its ZIP codes are 38834 and 38835.- History :...

 and Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 Census....

. From Stevenson, the road was connected to Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is the fourth-largest city in the US state of Tennessee , with a population of 169,887. It is the seat of Hamilton County...

 via the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. In Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, the railroad followed the route of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad between, Tuscumbia
Tuscumbia, Alabama
Tuscumbia is a city in and the county seat of Colbert County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,423 and is included in The Shoals MSA....

 and Decatur
Decatur, Alabama
Decatur is a city in Limestone and Morgan Counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. The city, affectionately known as "The River City", is located in Northern Alabama on the banks of Wheeler Lake, along the Tennessee River. It is the largest city and county seat of Morgan County...

, the first railroad to be built west of the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

.

The American Civil War


When the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 broke out in 1861, this railroad became of strategic importance as the only east-west railroad running through the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

. On the morning of April 11, 1862, Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 troops led by General Mitchell captured Huntsville, cutting off this railroads use for the Confederacy.

The railroad and its route through Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth is a city in Alcorn County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 14,054 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Alcorn County. Its ZIP codes are 38834 and 38835.- History :...

 was a significant factor in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

While the railroad briefly survived the American Civil War, the effect of the war on the railroad was devastating and led to its merger into other railroads of the same fate and eventually to become part of the Southern Railway system.

The Memphis and Charleston Route Today


The Memphis and Charleston Railroad eventually merged into the Southern Railway. The route is still in use today as part of the Norfolk Southern Railway
Norfolk Southern Railway
The Norfolk Southern Railway is a Class I railroad in the United States, owned by the Norfolk Southern Corporation. With headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the company operates 21,500 route miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbia and the province of Ontario, Canada...

 line running between Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

 and Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is the fourth-largest city in the US state of Tennessee , with a population of 169,887. It is the seat of Hamilton County...

, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

. US 72
U.S. Route 72
U.S. Route 72 is an east–west United States highway that runs for 337 miles from southeast Tennessee through northern Alabama and northern Mississippi to southwest Tennessee. The highway's eastern terminus is Chattanooga, Tennessee. Its western terminus is Memphis, Tennessee...

 roughly follows the original route of the Memphis and Charleston between Memphis, Tennessee and Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Muscle Shoals is a city in Colbert County, Alabama, United States. As of 2007, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population of the city to be 12,846. The city is included in The Shoals MSA. It is famous for its contributions to American popular music.-Geography:Muscle Shoals is located...

. From Muscle Shoals to Huntsville, Alabama Alt. US 72
U.S. Route 72 Alternate
Alternate US-72 exists in Alabama on the mostly south side of the Tennessee River between Muscle Shoals and Decatur, while US-72 follows on the north side of the river between Florence and Athens. Alternate 72 crosses the Tennessee River at Decatur, Alabama along with U.S. Highway 31 and follows...

 follows the original Memphis and Charleston. US 72 follows the route again from Huntsville to Stevenson, Alabama.

A disconnected piece of the M&C is still in use today by the Caney Fork Western RR (CFWR), which runs 61 miles from its junction with the CSX RR at Tullahoma, Tennessee to Sparta, Tenn. Much of the line is visible along SR 55 between Tullahoma and McMinnville. Northeast of McMinnville, US 70S in places, then McMinnville Highway from McMinnville to Sparta. A panoramic view of the deck truss bridge over the Caney Fork River may be seen from the McMinnville Hwy. (there SR 136) bridge. The track ends at the White Co. Justice Center in Sparta.

The bridge was raised for clearance over the lake when the dam was being built. New caps were poured on the original stone piers. One pier on the bank has an plaque set into the stonework describing the building of the M&C RR.

See also